F-35B aircraft will head to Cyprus later this year for their first overseas deployment.

The UK currently owns 17 F-35B aircraft with the reformed 617 Sqn having arrived back in the UK last year.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world.

This deployment marks an important milestone in this game-changing aircraft’s journey to becoming fully operational.”

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said:

“It is great to see 617 Squadron, the modern day Dambusters, flying the most advanced and dynamic fighter jet in the UK’s history and about to start their first overseas deployment.

I have no doubt that this short deployment will offer many tests, but likewise I am confident that our highly trained and skilled personnel will rise to the challenge and confirm our ability to deliver truly formidable capability.”

Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB ADC DL Royal Navy, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff said:

“This first overseas deployment of these world-beating British F-35B aircraft to RAF Akrotiri, together with their embarkation in HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time in the Autumn of this year, are important milestones to prove their readiness for deployed operations anywhere in the world in defence of our national interests.”

The Ministry of Defence say that more F-35B jets are due in Britain over the coming years, and there is an overall plan to procure 138 aircraft over the life of the Programme.

Leave a Reply

18 Comment threads
69 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
33 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Excellent news. Looking forward to seeing operational British jets on HMS Queen Elizabeth soon following this visit to Akrotiri, which is a really positive asset for the UK.


These aircraft are enormously restricted for land based op’s, regardless of refuelling tankers…
Hopefully they are being used as a stop-gap between Carrier readiness and (hopefully) the procurement of the F35A as part of the final order.


Should have read, “enormously restricted in comparison to the F35A”. But a very capable aircraft in itself…


The F35B is not “Enormously”restricted compared to the F35A. Yes the F35A has more range and can carry more load, but I think you are sensationalising a bit… Also as @Charlie said, the F35A can not operate from the carriers and can not operate from restricted air strips.


And it can’t refuel from our voyagers so range is crap.

Oh yes it can. Our F35B’s carried out first in flight refuelling from a Voyager on 16th October 2018. Just Google it, or check YouTube.


Talking about the A version which can’t, something the people who go on about range conveniently forget.


The F35B has a refuelling probe…

How is it enormously restricted compared to the F35A? It has slightly less range then the A, which is still a combat radius of 750nm for the B. Or about the same as a Tornado GR4 with tanks.


F35A is enormously restricted when it comes to maritime ops, mostly in that it can’t do them at all. You’d have to ask for permission to use them anywhere, even a ‘sovereign’ base like Akrotira would need permission from a foreign government. Carrier ops, on the other hand, are really sovereign.

Better off with the F35B when all is considered.

Agree Ian, I think we will be selling the RAF short if they are given the F-35b variant. The F35 is a very capable aircraft, gives us capabilities we don’t have. But please will people stop thinking it is on a par with the A variant, it is not, the B variant was designed for the US marines to replace the Harrier. Only the US marines are ordering them in significant numbers other than us. The USAF and US Navy are not having the B variant, because the A and C variants are more capable for their roles. The B… Read more »

The G force turning is irrelevant if a close range dogfight occurs the F35 will have failed. It’s is supposed to detect, approach then shoot down from short to medium range 3-20+ miles hostile aircraft and not really enter visual range dogfight engagements.


Here’s an article that explains what F-35 pilots say about the aircraft.

Robert Blay

Excellent article, some others who use this site should take the time to read such articles. Thanks for sharing.


What is significant, is the combined shortfall of G and Acceleration…A loss of 2Gs and a delay of 18 seconds (Yes, 18 long seconds!) in acceleration, combined with reduced aerodynamics, could have a bearing on outrunning AA/SA missiles.
Also, what’s the point of carrying 3000lb of extra/dead luggage on any deep-strike op’s?.
Then you have the extra $25million unit costs…reduced JDAM capabilities…extra maintenance…
It just doesn’t make sense!

Robert Blay

I would suggest reading the above article on the F35’s performance , and much more.


Yes, I’ve read it! It only confirms that the JSF is a very capable package, something I acknowledged above.
But it does not state anything contra to my criticism.
I still believe in procuring the A variant over the B for the RAF! So does the RAF itself!

If the G-force turn is irrelevant then why did the USAF specifically make sure the A could turn at 9G? And the G-force turn is not just for visual range combat, the pilot could be trying to evade a ground launched missile, or a BVR missile from an enemy aircraft, it might have used it’s two internal missiles already and is unable to avoid detection from enemy aircraft IRST, it might encounter top end air superiority fighters and have no choice but to try and evade. When any fighter pings another aircraft with it’s radar it is giving away it’s… Read more »

Robert blay

Get a brief off an actual RAF/RN F35 pilot, and you will quickly find you are talking out of your arse Mr Sole.


Robert blay
Can you point me to an RAF/RN pilot who’s flown an F35A? If so, back to back with an F35B?

Meiron X
US fighter pilots train at 9G, 15 seconds at four 10second intervals!

So, who’s really talking through their @sses?

Robert blay

The performance difference between the A and B is pretty minimal. Yes, the A can pull 9g and the B 7.5. But in the real world it isn’t a huge difference, you talk like the A model is an F16 and the B is Phantom. An F16 with underwing tanks is limited to 5.5g, which it is always going to carry. the F35B can still pull 7.5 with full internal fuel and weapons, and that is what makes the difference


Try any of the UK test pilots assigned to the intergrated test force at pax river that fly A B and C variants

Robert blay

I think BAE systems and the RN/RAF Project office in the MOD will have full access to F35A performance data don’t you, especially as we build every rear fuselage of every single F35A in the UK.

Robert blay

It’s incredible situational awareness and stealth and excellence performance are its key factors in survivability. He who has the best situational awareness wins the fight, not who has the best turn rate. Tornado F3’s, which was not an agile fighter, had a 12/1 kill ratio against the very best fighters in the world at its last red flag exercise back in 2009. And it did that because it had the best link 16 set up of any western fighter. Having the best situational awareness means you can make the very most of your weapon system, and makes up for any… Read more »


Think you’ll find the Japanese and Italians are planning on buying the F35B for their carriers.

Yeah not really the best debate to say that as Italy are buying double the number of F-35A as B’s and Japan are buying over a Hundred more F-35A’s than they are of the B.

Andrew Smith

Ive read somewhere the option for some A’s is being left open.


Hopefully, that’s the case!
It beggars belief why an RAF pilot would want to carry a 3000lb fan and drive shaft, together with unnecessary external stores, on a deep-strike mission.
I have little doubt that the B variant is ideal for the carrier force, and is well tailored/adapted to maritime warfare, as proven in the South Atlantic Conflict.

Robert blay

Did stop Harrier GR9 pilots operating over Afghanistan with a 21:000lb fan behind them. Don’t talk nonsense.


It initially suited It’s reconnaissance and Intimidation role in Afganistan, and I’m sure the F35B will also suit some land-based Op’s, but in the world of 5th gen fighters…40 x Tranche 3 Typhoons and F35B will limit our future range of capabilities. Why do you think the RAF is pushing for the A Variant?

Robert blay

In what way is the Typhoon and F35B limiting our over land capability compared to what we had before with the GR4? Typhoon has storm shadow, Brimstone 2, paveway 4, lightning 3 pod, spear 3 in a few years.

I mean it didn’t stop the Harrier operating deep strike missions over Afghan with a single subsonic performing engine, so the F35B will have no problems.

Cyprus is very nice at this time of year,a strange coincidence that.

Wonder if this means they may be used for air strikes in Syria in the near future?


Yeah, they must be monty. Well I hope they are.


Or just testing the aircraft’s stealth performance against Russia sourced air defences.


Radar rather than missiles.

Daniele Mandelli

Already done.

They will already know the capabilities of the S400 and S00 series are capable of. I personally do not believe Russian hyperbole. These defensive systems did not shot down a single Tomahawk cruise missile and were probably either turned off to preserve Russian mystique or the Russian’s did not want them to be taken out by electronic warfare aircraft or anti radiation missiles. They need to keep saying to the world these area denial weapons are effective to preserve foreign international arms sales.


I always said this should and would happen…..it’s gota be good real life training on our unsinkable aircraft carrier Cyprus.

Daniele Mandelli


We talked about this months back and I remember I was against it.

Oh well! There you go.

Daniele Mandelli

Clarifying that I am not against them using Cyprus to train during their work up but being used on ops when we have Typhoon already there.

As for tests against Soviet type SAM and Radar I believe that has been done many times already, including in conjunction with RAF RC135 over the Baltic and using USAF F35A’s.


Yeah u were lol, but you did have some gd reasons as to why m8 👍, I can’t see them sending more than a handful though, that’s right we don’t have many more than that…. Is it true we aren’t getting any F35s delivered this year? I thought I read that on here sometime ago

Daniele Mandelli

Only 1 I think Cam?


The reason the F35b’s will be going Cyprus is that there are clearer and less crowded skies there, ideal for training purposes.
Which is why the Red Arrows have traditionally trained at RAF Akrotiri in winter.


You can also go for a 9 course meal down the strip…


Florida and adjoining waters are also very nice in the summer and fall, maybe the QE Battlegroup will take advantage of that as well? Especially since it’s close to USMC F35B bases for fly on and off training on later deployment.



This move surprises me – is it part of the plan we keep seeing to achieve FOC? If its not, I think its a pointless move. We are subjecting a tiny number of aircraft to unnecessary risk and for no obvious reason since the caliphate is now finished. How much longer will we be flying over Syria and for what purposes? I wouldn’t mind so much if the MoD had accelerated delivery but sine it hasn’t, we should leave any presence to Typhoon and its new capabilities and squadrons. Does anyone know when the next batch of F35B arrive since… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I agree. Hope it is for training only.

I sense political motives too behind the announcement.

Robert blay

I’m pretty sure the RAF/RN knows abit more than you when I comes to deploying it’s aircraft. I think this will be a overseas deployment, to test the aircraft and maintenance away from the comfort of Marham. All new aircraft do this, this nothing to get to excited about.


I’m sure you’re right, but the same could be achieved by sending them to culdrose for instance. but as you say, I’m sure they have a better idea

Robert blay

It’s much more realistic to test the supply chain when the aircraft is overseas, rather then just a few hours down the road, plus it’s a test for the aircraft when operating in a hot climate. And it’s a good political statement that we can send our aircraft overseas as and when we want.

No, Daniele. It wasn’t a slip up on my part! I’m fully aware that it carries an RAF prefix.

However, it’s just a bit of tongue in cheek humour by my part – and a reference to some old discussions on here and on other sites. As Akrotiri is an unsinkable aircraft carrier, I just awarded it the HMS distinction!

Interesting if Uncle Sam did twist our arm. If so, I’m glad they did. It’s a fantastic asset to have.

SBA agreements should have been used more widely. Though with that said, I do think we need to heavily invest in our overseas bases whilst retaining the desire to open new ones.

Daniele Mandelli

My apologies Lusty.

No need to apologise, Daniele.

Daniele Mandelli

The UK itself was also known as “America’s Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier”


It was until it was confiscated for use as HMS Massive’s mooring buoy and ‘stone aircraft carrier’ from the US Navy.

Revenge for getting all of our tea wet.


The USN’s footprint on British soil in WW2 was surprisingly small. This was the former HQ…



Daniele Mandelli

That is almost a quiz question Helions.

Who would have thought it?

Captain P Wash

Absolutely love Cyprus, nothing nicer than sipping Ouso on the roof Terrace listening to the sound of Goat Bells and Jet engines.

Daniele Mandelli

Evening Captain.

Been quiet here today without your good self “livening things up”

Robert blay

Agreed, my very first overseas deployment with the RN was to Akrotiri with 899 sqn Sea Harriers, 4 week detachment, 21 years old, perfect. And got to watch the Red Arrows practice 3 times a day just to top it off. Winner 🍻

Meiron X

A pilot will have blacked out by 7g anyway!!
How do you know the capabilities of J-20 and SU-35? Do you work for Sukhoi? I think it is the case of, you think you know it all, by making some bull up along the way!
It is your propose to undermine on any subject!


Every Russian fighter has been over hyped by both Russia bigging them up for obvious reasons and US interests from politicians to plane makers with the agenda to increase defence spending. As for the J-20 nothing concrete has really come to light as yet about its abilities though there have been rumblings about its apparent limitations though one should be open minded till we know more. However a first attempt at a truly advanced aircraft rarely goes particularly well, no matter how talented the team or how good the espionage.


We are a lucky lucky nation in that we have two 70,000 aircraft carriers, why o why would we not purchase the aircraft we need to fill them. The reality is in extremism we could cram 40-50 F35bs on each…..that means any split purchase is just a huge opportunity cost that pisses away what our 6billion pound carriers could be.

You have to think though, in the event of us having to surge the two carriers to 40/50 aircraft, that situation would almost certainly mean US support, so the carriers could be surged with US marine F-35b.

Also the Typhoon Sqns are in 10’s, pretty sure the US Hornets are in 10’s now, could we honestly not have enough F-35b to have 6 squadrons of 10, three for each carrier, and then the rest F-35a for the RAF, 2 squadrons for overseas deep strike along with the Typhoon FGR4’s.

Meirion X

USN squadron Grim Reapers has 15 new F-35C’s.
USN squadron’s have historically had more aircraft!

Daniele Mandelli

Don’t forget to take into account the “Forward” fleet and “Depth” fleet. That requirement would need the full amount of 100 plus F35 to meet 6 front line squadrons, when attrition reserves, depth maintenance, and such are taken into account. And on top off that the OEU and OCU aircraft.

I think I read somewhere the French had reduced their squadron aircraft complement?

andy reeves

fill them with their full air wings and keep them that way

Glass Half Full

A few thoughts to reflect on for those commenting on split buy of F35A and F35B, and even if we stick with F35B why not buy them faster. Tempest. If the UK is successful in getting international support for this program then the resultant air-frame would provide the RAF with a multi-role air superiority biased Gen 5/6 platform in the 15-20 year time-frame, possibly earlier if the project is very tightly managed while significantly leveraging spiral development from Typhoon. Having F35A as well would be too much functional overlap IMV, not to mention the extra logistics issues and costs. Given… Read more »


With all the negativity of the f35b and weapon load (internal+external), how do they compare to the Tornado and the Harrier? I assume weapon wise, significantly reduced but what about range


Nice new look for the comments, shame still can’t edit.

Robert blay

It can carry 6 x paveway 4s, plus 4 x air:air missiles, 2 Meteors internal, and 2 x ASRAAM under the wings. Plus it has an internal laser designator, so no need from dragging external pods. With that load it had a combat radius of about 550 nm on internal fuel. way more than a Harrier GR9, slightly less than a GR4 with large external tanks. A GR4 could carry 5 paveway 4’s max under its belly, and the Harrier could carry 4. So overall I’d say it’s pretty good. Plus when we get the spear 3 missile, the F35B… Read more »


From many of the comments here it seems that people are getting hung up on which variant is better and why the F35 B is not as good as the others. Possibly if people looked at each variant to see what each variant is would be useful. Would anyone say that the Harrier was a bad aircraft, it had its flaws but was they were accepted then the aircraft did everything it was asked to and more. Was the Harrier better than the Tornado, you could not really compare them. Is the F35B an improvement on the Harrier sure it… Read more »


Seems to me that with just 138 aircraft in total being ordered, it’s best to stick to the one variant, the B. The B will get cheaper for later batches, and from the point of view of spares, maintenance, upgrades, logistics and interoperaibility, 138 is too small a number to have to carry two chains. With the B only, you could operate full squadrons from the carriers, rotate aircraft landwards for maintenance and resupply from land bases – such as Akrotiri. While keeping full squadrons. Same goes even for crews I guess including pilots. It also gives the RAF a… Read more »